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Wet, Wet, Wet at Iguazú Falls

Posted by on July 23, 2010

Puerto Iguazú is a town of apparently around 30,000 people, just inside the Argentinian border, a few kilometers from the national park surrounding Iguazú Falls. Across the river in Brazil is Foz Iguaçu, and this part of South America is novel in that there are three countries meeting where the river splits – the third country being Paraguay, with Cuidad de Este just across the river as well. On this split there is Tres Fronteras, where on each side of the river splitting there is a monument painted in the country’s flag colours, and from each of these monuments you can see the monuments of the others across the rivers.

We got up in the morning and noting the rain, and from Amal and my experience of Victoria Falls in Africa went for the quick-dry clothing option – we were prepared for a soaking. I also had a promotional TNT Magazine poncho which the photos of I’m hoping will get me something for free from them 😉 We walked around for a bit attempting to find the bus – it goes from just up the hill eventually, although walking to the bus terminal would have been easier. Five pesos each and 20 minutes later we arrived at the entrance to the park. Darren was also on the bus, in a jersey and jeans, and excited about the boat trip he’d booked. We saw him quite soaked and wet back at the hostel later!

Iguazu Park

Entering the park for Iguazu Falls

The park itself is laid out around the falls on the Argentinan side. There is a small train that takes you around to Gargantan de Diablo (Devil’s Throat) – the 700ft drop at the top of the main falls – there are at least 275 individual waterfalls at the site. Several are named, many are not. This makes it quite different from Victoria Falls – which when the river is in full flow can produce an unbroken 1600m curtain of water dropping down to the gorge below. Iguazu also has several walks around in front as well – the Superior Trail – leading along the top of the Argentinian side – above the Bosetti, Adan and Eva, and Dos Hermanas falls, and the Inferior Trail, a 2.5km walk around and down the gorge in front of the falls, with the odd coati crawling around the path. At the base of this is a launch for boats which either take you to San Martin island in the middle (sadly closed due to high water levels) or for a drenching ride under the falls themselves.

Incidentally the falls were first reported by Spanish Conquistador Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1541, and not ‘rediscovered’ until the end of the 19th century, which presumably came as a relief to his descendents as such fantastic reports of these falls could easily be thrown together with El Dorado and the Fountain of Youth.

We headed out on the train first, and had a fantastic view into the Throat.

The Devil's Throat - a 700ft drop

The Devil's Throat - a 700ft drop

Through the roar and the mist every so often you could catch a glimpse of the bottom, and it’s a LONG way down. Then keeping an eye on the time, we did the Inferior trail first, as the boats stop mid-afternoon and we didn’t want to be caught in a queue. It was a good plan, as it took some time to get down there. The final 150m is a sheer descent down rocky steps – with signs constantly warning that people with heart problems shouldn’t attempt it. As per usual I ignored that (sorry Mom).

Once we reached the boat, we were given a dry bag to put our things in – thankfully Blair had lent me a decent one earlier, as these didn’t function that well. However once we floated into the mist and the roar, I had to get my point and shoot out and get some shots – I figure it’s splash proof, and it appears I was right – some treasured pictures there. They take you up both sides of San Martin island, and under the spray and over the frothing, bubbling water as it’s thrown down under the main river and comes surging back up with the air captured underneath.

About to get soaked under Iguazu Falls

About to get soaked under Iguazu Falls

Back on dry land and thankful once more for my poncho, we headed back up the stairs – walking behind a woman who stopped every few steps to take a drag on her cigarette! Fortunately we’re all still reasonably fit at present, although Blair was struggling having hardly eaten the last two days – the woman at the desk at the top still gave a grin as we pulled ourselves up the last few steps.

We were running out of time a bit, so headed straight up and across to the Superior Trail, and the views only get better. The aforementioned falls are great on their own, but together in a row it’s a magnificent view. We’ve taken far too many photos which will take a long time to sort, but that’s what the upcoming bus rides will be good for, I guess.

We were some of the very last out of the park and walked briskly to pass the others; we didn’t fancy waiting in the rain at the bus stop for long. A ride back into town, and the hostel was doing an all-you-can-eat BBQ (hooray!), which we tucked into – the others finally finding their appetite again. Not quite the quality of El Calafate, but sometimes you have to travel to the ends of the world to find the best things. On that theory, the steak in Ushuaia should be incredible…

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